The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) has named arts curator and landscape educator John Beardsley as the inaugural curator for the forthcoming Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize.
The prize, which is set to be awarded for the first time in 2021 and will come with a $100,000 cash award as well as the resources for conducting two years’ worth of “public engagement activities,” was launched in 2019 by TCLF.
The prize is named after Canadian landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, a designer of dozens of widely acclaimed works, including the birch tree-filled 4,900-square-foot lobby garden located at the base of the Renzo Piano Building Workshop-designed New York Times Building in Manhattan.
Beardsley’s selection comes as preparations for the awarding the inaugural prize kick into high gear. Beardsley is an influential writer, curator, historian, and professor who has taught and worked at the intersection of landscape and culture for decades. Over the years, Beardsley has curated a variety of anticipatory exhibitions, including several prominent showcases of vernacular and craft-based artworks that highlight the rich connections between place and culture. For example, in 2002, while at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Beardsley organized “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend,” a survey of the family quilting practices of African American women from Gee’s Bend, Alabama. Prior to that, in 1987, he organized “Hispanic Art in the United States,” an exhibition that, according to a contemporaneous article published in The New York Times sought to “make sense of the quiet giant of American culture, the nation’s 17 million Hispanics whose culture remains largely invisible.”
In the years since, Beardsley has worked at the University of Virginia, University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard University, where he taught landscape architecture, history, and theory in various capacities. Beardsley earned an A.B. degree from Harvard and a Ph.D. from UVA in art history. Most recently, Beardsley served as the Director of Garden and Landscape Studies at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, D.C., where he has continued to engage with a variety of internationally relevant topics while overseeing fellowship, publications, and internship programs, a lecture series, symposia, and contemporary art installations in the institution’s historic gardens.
Regarding Beardsley’s selection, Elizabeth K. Meyer, chair of the Oberlander Prize Advisory Committee that selected him and will provide logistical support throughout the run of the prize, said, “The Oberlander Prize Advisory Committee quickly and unanimously agreed that he would be the perfect person to lead the Prize process in its early years,” adding, “John’s knowledge of the cultures of landscape studies, landscape architectural history, and contemporary landscape architecture practice is both broad and deep. The landscape architecture community, and the cultures of landscape, are indebted to John for taking on this momentous new program.”